The name Hamlet evinces various mental pictures: the melancholy Dane, the avenger, the dismissive lover. But for our family, the name will forever be remembered with affection as the name of the first dog we encountered on our long ago aliya. Why that name? What else could we call a Great Dane?
A dog was not out first priory in 1950, when we landed with two small children on the beach at Nahariya. Our first residence was under a piece of tarpaulin provided by a kindly neighbor. In fact, there was on ly one neighbor on this sandy lane, though across the field there was a house in which we were made welcome. We had reconciled our children, ages three and five, to the prospect of moving from their home, their rocking horse and their grandma with the promise of getting a real dog. So as our ship landed us in Haifa harbor, they threw themselves on us with loud cries, shouting, "Where's the dog? You promised us a dog!"
In order not to shake their faith in parental omnipotence, it behooved us to get a dog as quickly as possible. Puppies were advertised on a farm near the airport. We could fulfill our promise as we went to meet my mother coming from England.
My moth er was not a dog lover. Also, she was very tired. We got the dog, a small, sniveling, untidy bundle, and hoped he would sleep in the bed we had prepared in the trunk. Alas. He grew restless and made noises. Mother was alarmed. "What's that?" she said shar ply.
When we told her, Mother did not speak but pressed her lips firmly. A kindly neighbor provided a real room with lights and a nearby bathroom. Mother was not the camping sort. Across the sandy lane, the children were absorbed into a residential nur sery.
Morning dawned. One of those beautiful Galilean mornings that makes the memory of Manchester something to be dismissed. Before we could point this out, Mother was walking down towards us and arrived as I was struggling with the primus and Peter w as shaving by a mirror hung on the standpipe. She took in the scene and said, "Well, I can see why you needed a dog. The finishing touch to a cozy home."
Further comment was postponed as she heard the voices of the children rushing over the path shouti ng, "Ima, Abba. Did you get the dog? What's its name? Where is it?" - and totally ignoring their grandma.
We grew fond of Hamlet. He was no use as a watchdog as he loved everyone, and would greet all visitors with great joy, placing his great paws on t heir shoulders in order to lick their faces. He developed into a gentleman of the old school: kind, courteous, thoughtful. When it rained, two strange cats took over his kennel, and snarled viciously at his attempts to join them. Finally, he would use the inadequate shelter of an overhanging tree, and stand there, wet and miserable, until the sun came out.
He never bit anyone. The children sat on him, pulled his ears, engaged in wrestling matches. His only response was a deep, resigned growl. A princel y creature indeed.
He grew and grew and grew. He became stronger and more exuberant, and exponentially more difficult. Taken out on a walk, he pulled me and broke my hand. Feeding him was a problem, too, as our staple diet was white cheese and black br ead, augmented by parcels from American sympathizers. Inevitably, there came a time when there was not enough for him and sadly, we gave him to a supportive kibbutz. They had illusions about training him and he certainly looked impressive going round with the watchman. It was sad to see him go. We wished him a fond farewell, with a brand new collar and certificate of health and said goodbye, sweet prince.
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